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Grains of sand in the wheels of press freedom in Haiti

  • May 3, 2024
  • 10
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This Friday, May 3, 2024 marks World Press Freedom Day. Like everywhere else, Haiti commemorates this day but in a context marked by increasing insecurity, a socio-political crisis, a more than precarious economy and an environment increasingly threatened by natural disasters for a country whose road infrastructure and others do not respond to the environmental threats looming over the country.

Speaking of environmental threats, for the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day this year, the United Nations has decided to focus on the importance of journalism and freedom of expression in the context of current global environmental crisis. A way for the UN to raise awareness of all aspects of the global environmental crisis and its consequences through the work of journalists covering environmental issues. 70% of these journalists (749) have been victims for their work over the last fifteen years, revealed UNESCO in a report published on the occasion of the 31st commemoration of World Press Freedom Day this Friday 3 May 2024.

Considering the Haitian context, the courage of press workers is to be saluted. A special word for these protectors of democracy who do not hesitate to expose themselves in order to bring the news to citizens who have the right to reliable information from professionals who respect themselves and who are aware of the noble dimension of the profession they exercise. Hats off to these gentlemen and ladies!

Indeed, the practice of journalism, whatever the theme, exposes media professionals to challenges that are sometimes structural, sometimes circumstantial. In Haiti for example, in a context marked by a multidimensional crisis, journalists are often faced with constraints ranging from “a cruel lack of financial resources”, through “an absence of institutional support” to “difficult access to information”, as indicated in the 2024 Reporters Without Borders report on press freedom. Note that Haiti is classified in 93rd place in RSF’s 2024 press freedom report, with a score of 55.92 ahead of Senegal (94th) and behind Guinea-Bissau (92nd). Haiti was in 99th place last year, although its score was higher than in 2024 (57.38), despite the fact that it moved up six places. “Since 2021, they have also been the target of gangs, and are often victims of threats, attacks, kidnappings or murders with complete impunity. Since the fall of Ariel Henry’s government in March 2024, journalists have been caught between a wave of widespread violence and the social, economic and political crisis”, continues the RSF report published this Friday, May 3, 2024.

This report also highlights the failure of states to protect journalism around the world this year. RSF indicates that political authorities worldwide are threatening press freedom, when they should be guaranteeing its integrity. A reality from which Haiti has never been able to escape, especially when it comes to dealing with issues relating to corruption within state institutions, in an already fragile democracy.

Also, journalists are often victims of murder in the exercise of their function. In 2023, 100 journalists were killed across the world, three-quarters of them in Gaza, a region undermined by the Israeli-Palestinian war which continues, despite calls from international organizations and other countries for a cease-fire. fire.

Our (11) media workers have been killed since January 2022 in Haiti according to UNESCO, and nearly a dozen kidnapped during 2023, thus highlighting the fragility of the exercise of this profession in a Haiti prey to growth in gang violence in different forms. Assassination, kidnapping, intimidation, are among other means used to undermine journalistic work.

As for female journalists, they cannot even access certain areas to seek information, due to the fact that Haitian gangs often resort to sexual violence against women and girls. A reality denounced by the UN in a report in 2023, indicating that criminal gangs use sexual violence as a tool of punishment against women and girls who cross their territories.

However, journalism professionals continue to practice their profession despite the unstable and fragile conditions in which they work to bring news to citizens. They are often victims of insecurity, threats of all kinds but also of the precarious economic situation which continues to worsen in the sector due to the consequences of the security crisis on the economic life of private institutions in particular.

The courage and self-sacrifice of these professionals who give themselves body and soul in the exercise of this noble profession which often suffers from a lack of consideration, despite the numerous social struggles in which journalists have taken part for the good -being from the Haitian population, is to be welcomed. This is also the case for journalists around the world who become allies of citizens in the fight for democracy, well-being and access to reliable information.

Of course, there is still work to be done in the journalism sector, in particular to make it more professional, independent, and therefore reliable, but the fact remains that this sector is vital for democracy and social well-being. among others. Haiti is a glaring example of the importance of press freedom, with the results of this struggle for democracy leading notably to the exposure of corruption cases in the country, among other expressions of the importance of journalism. free.

Finally, we take this opportunity to salute the oldest newspaper in the country, Le Nouvelliste, which celebrated its 126th anniversary.e birthday this Wednesday 1e May 2024. We wish the life of the rue du Center newspaper, whose premises were recently vandalized. While sending our words of congratulations for this example of longevity, we condemn the attacks against the media institutions which only work to serve the population, by informing them, entertaining them and accompanying them in their daily lives as citizens of a free country where democracy must always prevail.

author avatar
Allwitch Joly